Angela and Vanessa Simmons made the most out of their brief trip home to New York. One day after leaving their abodes in California, the two were greeted with a slew of business meetings, interviews, planning sessions for the launch of their new Pastry shoe line and a three-hour photo shoot with rolling out magazine. Indeed, these hip-hop heiresses aren’t your average socialites who are only famous for being famous. Angela and Vanessa are young sexy moguls on the grind. They have embraced the same around-the-clock work ethic that their father, Rev. Run, and uncle, Russell Simmons, used to help build hip-hop’s foundation. And while being a member of hip-hop’s first family is full of benefits, Angela and Vanessa are paving their own path to success thanks to their $70 million Pastry shoe line. Moments after Keith Major photographed the sisters at his studio in Little Italy, they discussed their entrepreneurial endeavors, what they desire most in relationships, why bloggers often get it wrong, and how reality TV changed their lives forever.
The nation got a chance to delve into your lives with the reality shows “Run’s House” and “Daddy’s Girls.” When did realize that your lives would never be the same? Angela: When “Run’s House” first aired, I remember being on 42nd Street with my friends and someone came up to me and said, “You’re Angela Simmons from ‘Run’s House!’ ” It was kind of weird moment at first, but I’ve gotten used to it now. But the show changed things because people are now looking at you when you step out. Any and every thing you do is ridiculed. People comment about you wearing short shorts. My response is that I’m 23 and I’m doing what a 23-year-old does. I’m just being normal and having fun. I’m not doing anything wrong. They judge you quicker for dating more than one guy. Or if I’m seen with a guy, people think I’m dating him. Can I just be a normal 23-year-old who breaks up with a guy and moves on? But overall, it’s pretty cool to be able to have a good influence on people as well as everything else [that came with being a part of the show]. Vanessa: I enjoyed doing the show because I got to work with my family and just goof off in front of the camera. But there are so many people in your life and that’s kind of scary. After we finished taping “Daddy’s Girls,” I had to go into my little shell. I had to renew myself. People were judging me on things that normal people do. I had to take time for myself. I deleted my Twitter and I don’t go out as much. I’m just like everyone else; the only difference is that I’m under a microscope.
The show allowed the two of you to reach a larger audience. That same audience has gravitated towards your shoe line. What can people expect from this year’s edition of Pastries? Vanessa: Pastry has been going on for four years now and we are living in a time where dreams really do come true. We have the opportunity to collaborate with Mattel this year. We are doing a huge launch party in L.A. We are going to join up with the local children’s charity and give the kids a Barbie lifestyle. We feel like that’s what were here for. It’s a dream come true for us to work with such clients so we want to give back. Angela: We are expanding and our sneakers are doing well overseas now and there are so many cool collections to come for Pastry. We are very proud of what we have built.
What are the most important things that your father and uncle taught you about business? Angela: They lead by example. We sit back and watch what they do. Overall, they teach us how to make smart business decisions. I’m only 23 and I’m still learning. It’s impossible to know everything there is within the next couple of years. I just watch them. My uncle is such a stern businessman and I want to be just like that. Vanessa: Growing up around them, you take notes. We’re really still learning. The company started with four shoes and now it’s a $70 million company. If there is a big decision, I call my dad or uncle for advice.
As businesswomen who are always on the go, what advice would give to women who are looking to balance a relationship with a hectic schedule? Vanessa: It’s all about balance and understanding on both sides. You have to have a man who knows what you do and respects that. If he can’t respect that you have to be on the road for two weeks, then he isn’t the man for you. But it comes down to communication. Having love for each other will take you through. Angela: It’s also about making time. You can always make time for what you want to do. If a person you’re with isn’t making time for you, then you’re wasting your time. Even if I’m working all day, I can take five minutes to call you. It’s all about being on the same page.
What qualities are attractive in a guy? Vanessa: A guy needs to make me laugh. He must be loyal. I have to sense and know that you are a loyal person. He also has to stand for something. Angela: I like a guy who is funny and smart. You don’t have to be a geek, but you have to be open to exploring new things. If you come into it narrow-minded, it’s a waste of time. Honesty is important too. Even it will hurt my feelings, I’d rather you be honest than to lie to me.
What’s the perfect first date? Vanessa: A perfect date is when you get to hang out, talk and get to know each other. I’m a dinner person. I love restaurants and exploring different types of cuisines Angela: Good conversation and good laughs. Pick my brain, let’s talk. I don’t want too much. I like flowers, but don’t come through with one rose and think that this is it. Let’s have a good time and just be yourself.
Vanessa, how has your acting career progressed since your stint on “Guiding Light?” Vanessa: I’m very happy with where I am as an actress. It took a really long time to get there and build my craft. I need time to develop like every other aspiring actor. I have a number of different projects that will come out. I should have a feature film that will be released next year and I am in the MTV film, Worst.Prom.Ever.
Your father did some great things when helping to build hip-hop’s foundation. What do you remember most about his time with Run-DMC? Angela: I remember going to small cities and seeing so many people in the audience in adoration of him. They built Run-DMC out of fun and just being able to click together musically. It emanates through their music and performances. Vanessa: When I was younger, I appreciated being able to travel and hang out with my dad. I will always remember being at Madison Square Garden and my dad took off his adidas sneakers and the entire crowd did the same. It was amazing to see so many people enthralled by him. That’s when you take yourself out of the box. I’m really proud of my dad and the family that we come from. It’s really pretty awesome.
Angela Simmons will be speaking at the 2011 Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference
Angela and sister Vanessa Simmons will be speaking at the 2011 Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference and Expo. on Tuesday, May 24th. The event starts at 10:45 am at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Atalanta, GA. They’ll share their stories—their setbacks and successes—and drop informed tips on how to make all the right moves for your business.